Franco-British defence deal 'clearly essential': press

3rd November 2010, Comments 0 comments

British papers poured cold water Wednesday on the idea a Franco-British defence deal was a sign of blossoming friendship, saying the weakened former foes would struggle to maintain their militaries alone.

As they seek to tighten their belts amid a wave of austerity sweeping across Europe, London and Paris were focused on practical considerations of ensuring their armed forces could operate properly, said commentators.

The rivals -- who fought for dominance for centuries in battles including Agincourt and Waterloo -- struck the deal Tuesday which included agreements to create a joint military force and share nuclear testing facilities.

But the Times warned the agreement would likely be seen as a sign of weakness as the countries struggle to keep pace with "new international powers."

"A defence agreement between France and the UK may be interpreted as an attempt by old powers to prop each other up in straitened times and with emerging threats," said the daily in an editorial.

London's Evening Standard newspaper added: "The new Anglo-French military agreement is an entente not so much cordiale as practical."

Budgetary constraints were of paramount importance in striking the deal as the European heavyweights fight to recover from the financial crisis, said commentators.

Writing in the left-leaning Guardian daily, Michael White pointed out that the signs of austerity were clear for all to see even as British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy met to ink the deal.

"So poor are both countries now that the French did not even bring their own wine to celebrate the 'entente ruinée'," he quipped.

"At one point the president actually thanked the PM for agreeing to install catapults on our new aircraft carriers. Catapults? Has it really come to this? Asterix the Gaul had catapults."

There were fears that cooperation between France and Britain might not be as easy to get off the ground as the two powers hoped.

In an editorial, the rightwing Telegraph warned of "the enterprise's shaky foundations."

"While these treaties might make sense at a tactical level, the strategic interests of the two countries are often very different," it said.

For many, neither of the countries had any choice but to pool their resources.

"The new treaty which has lead to the creation of the Anglo-French rapid reaction force doesn't just appear sensible -- it's clearly essential," wrote Sean Rayment in the Telegraph.

"Does anyone seriously think Britain is going to take part in any future war on its own?"

© 2010 AFP

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